Sunday, July 8, 2012

Korea.. A Hierarchical Society..

I do not deny that I have not been in Korea that long comparable to the likes of many people I knew. Up to now, I have stayed in Korea for around 4 years. However, from the moment I arrived to Korea, the first people I met was a Korean. 

At the beginning, I do not know there were any foreigners living in my university so my friends were mostly Koreans. It was tough but with time, I matured and now, I take each challenges as if I have another puzzle to be solved.

I like to observe people too.

So far, there's one thing I cannot adapt here-It is the Korean culture of hierarchy in almost every environment. Elders are always respected no matter they are right or wrong, sometimes even juniors kowtowing to them so as to obtain good impression from the superiors. 

I think I am exposed to more Westernized environment. I questioned seniors/elders if I felt I am right, I ask when am curious, I follow orders but not blindly. In Korea, it's very rare to see students asking questions in class, students questioning professors' conducts were unheard of and promotion based on ability is not as widely practiced as promotion based on age.

Of course, I still have Asian values in me.

The other day, while having dinner with Koreans and a Chinese- Everyone were older than me, so I used honorific like "저는 (jorh nen)" instead of a more friendly term like "나는 (nah nen)" and ended my sentence with a "-요 (yo)" as to comply with the Korean style of speaking to the elders. 

Bulgogi (불고기)

So after a while, the chief of the organization entered and like they were been struck by a lightning bolt on their asses, immediately everyone rises. I was already halfway munching my beloved 15,000 Won (13 USD) 불고기 (Bulgogi) and have no choice but to stand up so as not to be the odd ones out. Then, the other Koreans began to act like as if a King had just arrived. Drinks were ordered and the rest, well, I don't really care.

When I am old, I do not want people to agree with me if I am wrong. I do not want people to hesitate and give me a vague answer rather than a Yes or No. I do not want my junior to act and pretend to be nice when any seniors or me are around.

Respect I felt, is not a God given right and it has no relation with the age of a person. It has to be earned. It's just that I felt Korean's culture of hierarchy will be huge impediment for its future growth in a long run. 

I hope in years to come, Koreans will be true to themselves and not be pretending to be nice just because the elders are around. Not all Koreans were like that but unfortunately they are the minority.  


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Adventures at Yeosu - Yeosu Expo 2012

Yeosu Expo is being held in Korea from May 12 to August 12 this year. This exposition is aimed to allow the international community to understand the importance of conservation and the proper use of the ocean and coast resources. 

Not to forget, this exposition is also held to showcase the different cultures of the world and to strengthens Korean's international image as the host country.

Welcome to Yeosu Expo! 

With a huge numbers of pavilions being set up in a short time, it was a remarkable achievement for Korea. As a student staying in Korea, it would be a wasted opportunity if I did not attend this expo. So like most cash-strapped students, we try to go on budget (It is impossible though...). 

Unpredictable as my friends were, we decided to go to the exposition after deciding only two days before.

This is me! 

I love adventure and going to places with little planning. Usually, most of my trips were not planned but we have a list of where to go and what to try. 

Getting to Yeosu from Daegu is not difficult as it seems. Yeosu is located at the Southernmost of Korea and it takes less time (and cheaper) to travel from Daegu (in the middle of South Korea) to Yeosu than Seoul (northern part of South Korea) to Yeosu.

First, get off at Seongdangmot (성당못)

Exit here - Exit number 3

The bus station is directly next to the exit 

From my university, we took a taxi to Banwoldang Station (반월당), the only station where Line 1 and Line 2 of the Daegu subway intersects. Then, we took Line 1 to Seongdangmot (성당못) and exited the station at Gate 3 (Sobu Bus Terminal - 서부정류장). 

There, bus ticket to Yeosu can be bought (Less than 20,000 Won one way). Travelling by bus was a "butt-wrecking" experience. One Ahjumma (old lady) entered the bus even though all the seats were filled and she pretended to arrange her belongings on the top rack of the bus. 

When the bus driver was halfway on the road, she asked the bus driver whether or not it is possible for her to sit on the floor of the bus. Left with no choice, the bus driver relented. 


I felt like giving her my seat but the 3 hours plus journey scares me off. Along the way, I remembered we stopped at a rest stop and during the rest of the journey, I was sleeping. We arrived at Yeosu around 6 pm and we took a bus (Free!) to the exposition site. 

There will be guides (around bus stops) so it is very easy for tourists visiting the town. My first impression of the town/city (I can't call it a city) was this is a countryside (진짜 시골처럼 ㅋㅋ). Facilities there were bare minimum but food and accommodations were as expensive as in Seoul (maybe because of the exposition).

Evening Pass 

Standard Day Pass 

Sight from the main entrance gate

We knew beforehand that visiting the Expo for a day was not enough, we quickly bought the entry passes as soon as we reached Yeosu Expo site (2 tickets - 1 for the standard day pass, 33,000 Won and the other is Evening pass, 16,000 Won). So, the journey began. 

As a souvenir, we also bought the "Yeosu Passport" at 5,000 Won each. At every pavilion visited, we can obtain a stamp to be stamped/pasted on the "Passport".

Yeosu "Passport"

Singapore Pavilion

Australia Pavilion! 

On the first day, I visited Singapore, Peru, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei, Australia (Had my dinner there too), Malaysia (Roti Canai at 7 Dollars? Come on!!! I can get it for less than 0.50 Dollars if I am in Malaysia!!!), Philippines and finally, Russia (Food here is so expensive, more than 20 Dollars for a decent meal). 

My Dinner @ Australian Pavilion

Malaysian Pavilion 

As it was already late at night, we watched the fountain performance and light-play at the "Big-O". That was the end of our Day 1. After we exited from the site, we searched for place to overnight. Most cheap rooms were already taken and it cost upwards 100 Dollars for a normal room. 

So we bargained and we managed to reduce the it to less than 70 Dollars.

"Big-O" fountain show 

Look at the crowd! 

My Day 2 was about waking up early and getting to the theme pavilions. As I was the earliest to wake up, (the rest were still sleeping) I managed to visit the aquarium (Lots of people!!! Honestly, if lining up for hours is a cup of tea for you, go for it but if not - skip it! I started to line up at the entrance at 8.00 am and entered the aquarium only at around 9 am.). 

Hyundai Pavilion

Bus ticket back to Daegu 

Other pavilions I visited worth mentioning were the Climate and Environment Pavilion and the Korean Pavilion. I visited almost all the international pavilions but had to give few European countries' pavilions a miss. 2 days is certainly not enough to visit all of them. 

Going back was the same and the bus journey (18,200 Won) back was better, everyone was tired so most of us slept until we reached Daegu. Dinner was a miserable Cheese Kim bap (2,000 Won) and red (or black?) bean buns. 


The expo was so-so and personally, I witnessed many people cutting in line (luckily not the younger ones) and it pissed me off at certain point. As an Asian with Asian values, I maintained my calm and respect for elders but...

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"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning" ~Winston Churchill~